It is with great sadness that I report that my friend and former 350th pilot Harold C. Brown passed away October 26, 2013 aged 89. I first met Harry when he returned to Raydon in 1990 and enjoyed many subsequent reunions in the United States with him and his wife Lois. Harry was one of the real characters of the Group and Squadron and will be missed.
In one of his last letters to me (he was still writing until quite recently) Harry told how Charles Lindberg had visited his hometown when Harry was five years old. Lindberg shook his hand and gave Harry the aviation bug for life.
After his eighteenth birthday in June 1942 Harry enlisted in the Army Air Force to become a pilot and attended basic training at San Antonio, Texas and then primary at St. Louis, Missouri, basic at Garden City, Kansas and advanced at Eagle Pass, Texas. Harry earned his wings and headed to fighter school Tampa, Florida – despite being, at 6 feet, above regulation height for a fighter pilot.
At fighter school he met three friends who would all be posted to the 350th (these were Martin D. Coffey, John J. Phelan and Edwin H. Peters). Coffey was three years older than Harry and was a multi-millionaire’s son with a $750 per month “fun” allowance. The two became firm friends with Coffey acting like an older brother to Harry.
Harry trained on the P-51 Mustang, but when he and his three friends reached England in April 1944 they were posted to the 353rd operating Thunderbolts. Undaunted, Harry began training on May 4 and flew his first operational mission on May 21. D-Day was fast approaching and Harry and his friends had been sent as replacements for the crucial battles ahead. D-Day itself was his twentieth birthday and in another letter to me Harry related how in the early morning briefing Col. Duncan singled him out and said “Brown, I hear you have a party planned for the officers club – well not tonight.” Duncan then proceeded to detail the operations for the day.
The losses suffered by the 350th at this time were tragically high. Coffey was killed on June 10 and Phelan two days later on the June 12 “disaster.” Harry barely made it back that day while Peters was forced to bail out over the Channel and lost a leg in the process. These losses, and particularly that of Coffey, left deep and painful scars on Harry that remained with him. Harry flew his sixty-seventh and last mission of the war September 3, 1944.
This brief post is to the memory of Harry Brown. My thoughts are with Lois and family at this time…